Venue-by-Venue 08/11/2013 - 9:15am

I don't know if this is mental fatigue or not, or a sign I'm trying to keep myself entertained as I go from show to show to show, but while I was watching dance pieces on Friday at the Southern, I started playing with distance. Heatwave was my first show of the evening, and I sat up relatively close to the front of the audience so I could have a better view of the individual dancers.* As we moved through each piece of Heatwave, I began to wonder if I was actually doing myself a disservice by sitting too close; that by sitting in the first rows of the audience I was focusing too much on individual dancers and that some distance would allow me better glimpses at the forms the dancers were taking as a whole. For the sake of experiment, for Gray Matter I moved back to about halfway between the top and bottom of the audience. I had no idea how the six dancers would use ballet to explore consciousness, but I could feel my focus become more diffuse as I tried to watch multiple dancers at once. And this worked--I felt my engagement and enjoyment increase as I tried to take in the piece as a whole. It worked so well, that when I saw Analog at 10 pm Friday, I moved further back, almost to the final row, and tried to repeat this use of "diffuse focus" to take in the entire picture Katharine Hawthorne and company were creating. And I found it didn't quite work as well as it did for Gray Matter. Was I too far back? Or was it the subject matter? Though the patent images beamed onto the walls of the Southern via overhead projector were intended to guide me in performance, I couldn't see them well. The walls of the Southern are multicolored and sometimes patchy, so the guide these images were supposed to provide was somewhat lost. And I had sat too far back, and was missing some of the definition of the performers themselves. I carried this distance play over to my time at the Illusion. I sat close for The Vindlevoss Family Circus Spectacular!, moved away for Lolita and A Gentle Spirit, and came back to the front rows for I Make No Promises, But Someone's Probably Going to Die. Where I felt this helped me while watching dance (at least in finding a sweet spot to view the action), I can't honestly say it gave me any benefit for those shows. Sitting closer for Vindlevoss and IMNPBSPGD and watching the faces of the actors and their interactions with each other was a plus, and as a result I feel I should have been closer for Lolita and A Gentle Spirit. What distance should I be from the stage comes down to a combination of personal preference, how the choreographer/director staged the piece, and the subject matter, and it's almost impossible to know that before a show begins unless you ask someone involved in the production. Most of these decisions are therefore not exactly informed ones--we default to personal preference, "I like to sit far away" or "I want to be able to see the actor's nosehairs." I saw a solution to this in my night at the Southern: as her show Burning Brothels began, Katharine Glover came out and told us to come up close and get comfortable. If I'm any kind of audience member, I'm one that can take direction. Recommendation from the Southern Through a combination of its subject matter and the distance I placed myself from the performers, I find myself thinking about Gray Matter time and again. There were pieces of Heatwave I enjoyed--The Sound of Worms being the stand-out--but overall the strength of Gray Matter impressed me. They have one more performance Sunday afternoon at 4:00 pm. Recommendation from the Illusion I loved watching The Four Humors perform Lolita, but I want to see The Vindlevoss Family Circus Spectacular gain some audience. I found the combination of physical theatre, clowning, and becoming (super)human incredibly charming. Like most shows I enjoy, I felt a little sad when it ended because I wanted it to go on for longer and live in the world that the Animal Engine team created. They have one more performance this Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. *Quick side story: a man was sitting with his one and a half year old girl in front of me. Heatwave is made up of several dance pieces surrounding summer, and Itch, about halfway through, was a piece about bites and itches and scratching. As the dancers finished and left the stage, the young girl cried out with such distress "MOMMA! MOMMA!" They left and came back after she had calmed down, and it's stuck in my head as one of the most memorable audience outbursts I've ever witnessed.
Headshot of Joshua Humphrey
Joshua Humphrey
Venue-by-Venue: Each Fringe day, a new Fringe venue. What shows will Joshua Humphrey see that he might otherwise skip? How does the audience ecology change from show-to-show? And where can a guy get a drink around this place?